Professor Emily H. Johnson
International Reporting Syllabus
The life of a foreign correspondent is full of new horizons and surprises, risks and frustrations, and unrivaled opportunities to create rich journalistic work. The goal of this course is to prepare you to step into that role by reporting real international stories here in New York City.
Each student will choose one country (or nation) as a primary focus and will report on issues involving that country throughout the semester. By the end of the course, you will have spoken to a diverse array of sources, compiled in-depth knowledge of the country’s geopolitical significance, and defined issues and the major stories unfolding there. You will become familiar with the local media of that country and be able to speak knowledgeably about its successes and failures. You will spend time reporting in immigrant communities, interview people abroad via Skype, and learn about many international agencies and organizations, including the United Nations. You will also learn best practices for reporting safely and responsibly across languages and cultures and in remote places.
You will produce three stories over the course of the semester, along with other assignments. This course is not medium-specific, and you are free to focus on video, radio or photojournalism — if you can demonstrate competency — rather than writing.
DISCUSS: THE STATE OF INTERNATIONAL REPORTING IN 2017
It used to be that even smaller newspapers had foreign correspondents, but in the digital era the old models have fallen by the wayside. These days, the “big four” of American print (NYT, WaPo, WSJ, and L.A. Times) still have overseas reporters but most other papers rely on wire copy for their international stories. Meanwhile, the places opening foreign bureaus are new media organizations like Foreign Policy and Buzzfeed (which is actually doing some incredible journalism).
What does this mean for aspiring journalists who have their hearts set on working abroad? It means that there has been an industry-wide shift toward reliance on freelance content, which is fantastic news for anyone who is willing to take the risk of just picking up and going somewhere and trying to make it on their own. There are certainly still overseas staff jobs, but they’re harder to get; not impossible, but the bulk of the opportunities are on the freelance side.
The last few years have also been a notably dangerous time for journalists around the world. Press freedom is an increasingly fragile thing, even here in the United States.
DISCUSS: Student introductions. What are you hoping to get out of this class, and what would your dream journalism job be? (Either full-time job or story assignment.)
FOR NEXT CLASS:
Read “The Myth of the Reckless Young Freelancer” by Anna Day and come prepared to discuss.
Also, start thinking about which country/NYC immigrant community you would like to cover this semester, and do some preliminary research into the types of stories you would likely be able to cover from here in New York. Write a short blog post detailing which country/nation/community you would like to cover (or which ones you’re deciding between) and some of the pertinent resources and sources that would likely be available to you here.
New York’s Neighborhoods By Ethnicity
The Newest New Yorkers
18 Ethnic Micro Neighborhoods in NYC